Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Wizard - ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes (2011)

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...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes

Wizard : ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes
Teutonic power metallers Wizard, who've been punishing the masses with their true metal style since the early '90s, are back with thier ninth album ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes. Just in time for Samhain, Wizard have put together a horror themed album inspired by the works of German novelist André Wiesler. His series of supernatural thrillers set during The Thirty Years' War serve as inspiration for much of the album, the band even going so far as to enlist Wiesler to contribute some of the lyrics. The result is a rather punchy collection of songs delivered in a style that fans of the band, as well as fans of outfits like U.D.O. and Grave Digger, will eagerly devour.

Over the years, I've occasionally seen Wizard referred to as Germany's answer to Manowar on a number of metal websites and there is a degree of truth to such a comparison. The band's music is often epic, nearly always rousingly anthemic, and favors well-composed riffs over flighty keyboard passages. While the lads of Manowar bask in their cheesetastic glory, Wizard eschews the fromage for more serious endeavors. The title track, for example, starts ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes in epic fashion with a pummeling double-kick/bass tandem and locomotive riffs. Throw in shout-along gang choruses and robust extended soloing, not to mention a nice tempo shift at the end of the song as frontman Sven D'Anna does his best Jani Lane impersonation, and there's no question as to what Wizard's sound is all about.

D'Anna has a forceful voice that he typically restricts to a mid-ranged delivery, though he's not afraid to reach for the stratosphere for a note or two. I will say that he's his most unbalanced at those moments, but for the most part he turns in a fine performance. Although his cleanly sung parts are a fine compliment to the music, when he adds a little snarl to his delivery (tracks like "Undead Insanity" and "Taste Of Fear", for instance) I find the heightened aggressiveness to these songs much more enjoyable than when Wizard strives for a more even-tempered Euro sound.

Although songs such as "Messenger Of Death" and "Sign Of The Cross" border on territory more familiar to bands such as Helloween and Gamma Ray, with their uplifting choruses and inspirational guitar leads, Wizard never goes full Euro at any point on ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes. The keyboard is used sparingly, such as the piano intro to "Taste Of Fear" and the nice synth atmosphere of "Fair Maiden Mine", and never overshadows the guitars or trespasses into anything resembling wankdom. Instead, the thumping bass of "Messenger Of Death" and the squealing leads of "Fair Maiden Mine" are the elements that most populate the album.

Speaking of "Messenger Of Death", it - along with "Bluotvarwes" - joins the title track as highlights of ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes. The former features some exquisite twin-guitar leads and hungry riffs from Dano Boland and Michael Maass, as well as some very infectious vocal techniques from D'Anna. "Bluotvarwes" is built upon driving, melodic riffs and a strong bass presence by Volker Leson. The tempo shifts are well-placed, the gang choruses are catchy, and Snoppi Denn kills it behind the kit.

The waning moments of ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes start to drift into unremarkable territory when compared to the first several tracks, but there are enough high points to give the album overall buoyancy. This one might have to grow on some fans, but ...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes is definitely one of the better "true" power metal albums to hit the streets this year.

Track Listing
1...Of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes5:07
2Undead Insanity3:46
3Taste Of Fear4:53
5Messenger Of Death5:49
6Sign Of The Cross3:54
7Fair Maiden Mine4:56
11Hagen von Stein3:53
Total Runtime1:01:36

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